WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass on Twitter) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Quislet) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted (how?) into two piles -- the "buy" pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of planned purchases) and the "read" pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursday afternoons you'll be able to get his thoughts (and they're just the opinions of one guy, so calm down) about all of that...which goes something like this...
THE BUY PILE FOR MAY 26TH, 2010
In a triumph of plot over characterization, this issue focuses on moving the chess pieces around (which even T'challa mentions) as Doom uses his decades-long knowledge of both Reed Richards and the erstwhile Lord of the Wakandas to keep them jumping through hoops as if they were playing an old Mario-based video game. As the cover shows, T'challa's willing to introduce a rogue element into the game, one which by its very nature introduces the possibility that anything can happen. Interesting storytelling, but the chaff-like falling of faceless and nameless cannon fodder takes away some of the resonance these events could have. While it is sad to see that "Wakanda's cultural arrogance has brought us to this brink" which needed American adventurers to save a formerly self-sufficient African nation, it'll still be interesting to see where ten thousand tons of Wakandan vibranium are going to end up.
Jump from the Read Pile. A very strangely intimate pair of stories that does everything those "Secret Files and Origins" should do -- presenting characters in definitive terms while not sacrificing too much storytelling in the process. Here, you get to see Major Bludd at work and find out the reasons why Spirit is so good at what he does, both delivering in a big way. Quite a pleasant surprise.
Jump from the Read Pile. One day we're going to look back on this issue and say, "that's when 'Incorruptible' turned into something serious." Max Daring's quest to retrieve his teenaged tagalong gets extraordinarily serious with a deftly plotted, brilliantly told story. The interplay between his new police confidant and Jailbait was great, as was Max's newfound heroism in the face of a criminal mastermind. The gray area as Max struggles to find his way as one of the angels is fascinating to watch, and here, all the surrounding aspects stood up to be counted as well. Huge kudos to the spandex-tight script from Mark Waid and the vibrant artwork of Horatio Domingues, Juan Castro and Andrew Dalhouse.
Jump from the Read Pile. There's more ambition than actual quality to applaud here, but the strength of Reed Richards delivering a speech that could be applicable to many, many situations, a soliloquy that's so good, means it's worth owning, period. "I've spent the weekend walking around in a daze wondering, what has happened to the great men and women that helped define the legacy of this place? And then last night I figured it out...you've grown old. Here, at the end of human history, we sit on the verge of a transformative time. Never have we lived longer, eaten better, worked less or possessed more things. We are more advanced than any species that has ever walked the earth, and now, with our promethean urge truly unleashed, we stand on the precipice of scientific marvels that will catapult us into the next millennium. Despite all this, evidence presented here suggests that most of you have never been more pessimistic for our future. You fear tomorrow. Throughout the day, the shock of this mindset has turned to disappointment and finally now to anger...the future of man is not one billion of us fighting over limited resources on a soon-to-be-dead planet, but one trillion human beings spanning an entire galaxy. The future of man is not here...it is out there." Reed goes on, in this issue, to throw down the gauntlet on complacency and the fright-inflected thinking of yesterday's vanguard. He's talking about theoretical science...but he could just as easily be talking about politics. Or music. Or comic books. The idea is for new ideas and brave inspiration, and the call for it is inspiring even if the rest of this particular comic book doesn't live up to that determination.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Great stuff so far, and three jumps is quite a show of quality.
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Steve Rogers leading a team of heroes on superhero espionage missions? "Secret Avengers" #1 sounds pretty good in theory, but in execution it stumbled. The opening scene -- a covert snatch and grab featuring the Black Widow and Valkyrie in short dresses -- was good, but the recruitment scenes felt rote and things didn't improve as they headed to Mars. The idea remains solid, let's see if the execution can tighten up as it goes along.
The Keyser Sose gag in "Justice League: Generation Lost" #2 continues as even seeing video of Maxwell Lord isn't possible -- he's rewritten the whole world to rewrite his crimes in the names of others and to deny his very existence...well, almost the whole world. Four JLI-era heroes remember, and discrediting them doesn't seem all that hard for a man who controls minds and can't be seen by anyone who matters. Why wasn't that enough? It was way too slow with cameos aplenty.
"Sam and Twitch: Writer" #2 continues as a clear and effective police procedural, building character alongside the development of the serial killer's "plot." It didn't really distinguish itself in either character or circumstance, but it was solidly "all right" in a "TV good" kind of way.
Speaking of effective establishing material, "Amory Wars: In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth" #1 used a canine framing device to introduce a lot of content in a fairly small space. However, as good as that was in terms of character development, it's not exactly like anything happened.
"Tracker" #4 was an improvement, with a lot more emotional investment for the characters and another stronger performance by the supporting cast. It wasn't outstanding, but it at least got to "okay," which is good. The action and art, as always, are top notch, if a little gore-heavy.
"Unknown Soldier" #20 was intense but intentionally inconsequential, showcasing effective tactics and defense of a patch of higher ground against relentless and numerically superior enemies...but it was dour as hell, nobody really liked what happened here, including every character noted, and the final outcome was less than inspiring.
Have you ever seen Bruce Willis in "Last Man Standing?" Set that on a frontier planet and put in a Black protagonist and you'll have "Cold Space" #2, as Sam Jackson writes himself as a character who has all the right moves. Which is cute...if you hadn't already seen this played out in Kurosawa, the aforementioned Willis movie and so on. Cute for being derivative.
If you imagine the old series "Hart to Hart" mixed with a dash of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and a pinch of Mulder and Scully, it'd likely look like "Mystery Society" #1, which features a fun married couple building a team of misfits for some larger objective that's never mentioned. Again, cute but not necessary.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Superman: War of the Supermen" #4, "Amazing Spider-Man" #632, "7 Psychopaths" #1, "Brave and the Bold" #34, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Dust to Dust" #1, "Thunderbolts" #144, "Wolfskin: Hundredth Dream" #2, "X-Force" #27, "Green Lantern Corps" #54, "Darkness/Darkchylde: Kingdom of Pain" #1, "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #37, "The Guild" #3, "Mighty Crusaders Special" #1, "Star Wars Legacy" #48, "Power Girl" #12, "Angel" #33, "X-Men Origins: Emma Frost" #1 "Green Hornet" #4, "X-Men: Blind Science" #1, "Web" #9, "Thor" #610, "Green Hornet: Year One" #3, "Weapon X Noir" #1, "Wonder Woman" 344, "Dark Wolverine" #86, "Garrison" 32, "Transformers" #7, "Fall of the Hulks: The Savage She-Hulks" #3 and "Green Lantern" #54.
No, just...no... These comics? Not so much...
"Thanos Imperative: Ignition" #1 was plodding along well enough, albeit being a little talky, and then that ridiculous last page came along, and it all went to crap. Apologies to GeekWeek, but the reveals and story elements here are so "Inside Baseball" that Wikipedia would be needed to figure it out. A terrible idea at the root, and all fruits of it could be tainted by that.
"Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne" #2 is virtually incomprehensible. The art doesn't do well distinguishing Mordecai (Bruce?) Wayne from the blandly dressed individuals around him. The jumbled storyline is, at best, gibberish. When you add in the equally hard-to-follow end of time wackiness that Superman and Rip Hunter are involved with...it's dazzling how badly this went.
Oh, "Dazzler" #1. A passion project for writer Jim McCann, it suffers from the same problem as "Ignition," discussing elements only the deeply initiated geek could know, based in frustrations from obscure back issues and settling arguments that only the deeply interested could remember. You can tell the parties involved are deeply invested...but there's no reason in this comic for others to share the sentiment.
"Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal" #3 was willfully whiny, lame and literally impotent. As if that limpness wasn't enough, there's also a lapse into drug use and an intervention that surely wouldn't make a cable network's programming. Really, relentlessly bad stuff.
As the end of a miniseries, you might have expected "Ultimate Comics Enemy" #4 to have some kind of conclusion to its story or reveal something...yet you'd be completely wrong. Sure, you've got a really inside joke with Ultimate Nick Fury's baseball bat, but there was no story here. This was completely inconclusive, simply saying "find out more in another four dollar comic, you sucker!" Stop it. Just...stop it.
"Teen Titans" #83 was actually a "meh" comic, but some kind of feverish flash came over the reviewer while working his way through the meaningless chatter here, almost causing some kind of fainting spell. Probably nothing...unless they actually implanted some kind of subliminal nausea-inducing underimage in this work. Hard to tell.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Eight were okay, six were really pretty bad...but wow, that's a whole mountain of "meh," and there were still a number of books unread. Oy...the whole day was just illness-inducing in how it defied Reed Richards' Jonathan Hickman-penned challenge.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Three jumps still outweighs a multitude of "meh," even with such terrible, terrible comics in the worst of the worst. Looking at things that way, it's not that bad.
Also, there was no order for "Boondock Saints: In Nomine Patris" #1 nor "Whatever Happened to Baron Von Shock" #1, and nobody sent in a PDF for review. Sorry.
Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. "less than 64 pages") by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed, if remembered. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources. If you send it in more than two days before comics come out, the possibility of it being forgotten increases exponentially.
As of 7PM PST, you should see the new word in Hannibal Tabu blogging. Sorry for the delay. Brace yourself.